In a couple of recent blogs, we’ve talked about the Lineapelle expo and its focus on metal-free tanning methods. One of the reasons why veg-tan is catching on in the industry is that it doesn’t use the same kinds of metal-enriched heavy chemicals that chrome tanning relies on. This helps to limit the environmental impacts of the tanning process.
However, vegetable tanning and other metal-free tanning methods have their drawbacks.
What Are the Issues with Metal-Free Tanning?
First of all, the formulations and procedures of the chrome-based process need to be replaced with brand new ones. This requires years of development, including trial and error testing, to make sure the physical and aesthetic qualities of the leather will hold up. Vegetable tanning produces a different look and feel from chrome tanning, and some veg-tan methods are more susceptible to staining when exposed to moisture.
Secondly, metal-free tanning (specifically, veg-tan) typically makes a yellowish crust. This makes it hard to go into light colors.
Lastly, new is always more expensive. New chemicals are more expensive until they become widely adopted and can achieve scale. New procedures are more expensive while the technicians learn them and become more efficient. New equipment needs to be developed, assembled, delivered, installed and tested. This will lead to higher production costs and lower productivity as tanneries adjust. However, over time, this should even out as processes become more standardized across the industry and the individual tanneries become more familiar with the new methods.
Is Veg-Tan Worth it?
While veg-tan might have some short-term costs associated with it, it does help provide tanneries with new options for their clients while reducing the environmental impact and mitigating metal allergy issues for end-consumers.
This is part of the reason why Pan Am Leathers is beginning to keep some metal-free options in stock for its clients.